The Truth About Murphy's Law and Your Event

The Truth About Murphy’s Law and Your Event (and what to do about it)

9 min read
If there’s one place Murphy’s law applies, it’s smack bang in the middle of your event.

Murphy may come across a little OTT, but small (and big) things can and will go wrong on event night. Along with being prepared, staying cool, calm and clear-minded is the key to survival if things go pear-shaped.

Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.Murphy
So said Murphy, back in 1866. His glass was half empty, for sure. But dammit, he does make a point that rings true for our industry. Events are by their very nature, detailed, longer-term projects that involve multiple people behind the scenes. And people being people, mistakes do happen despite our best intentions.


Stay on the front foot by being as prepared as possible. Remember:

Prevention is always better than cure
* & smarter & cheaper

How Murphy Commonly Applies his Annoying Law


Even your signature meticulous planning might not be immune from doom. Acts of God, unlucky circumstances and simple human error can all play a part.

If there’s one place Murphy’s law applies, it’s event management. Click To Tweet
Here are some standard balls-ups to keep an eye out for, with on-the-spot cures and tips to prevent them happening in the first place.

1. Venue

Venue is hard to find

All the ducks are lined up, and you’ve ticked every box. You check your watch. It’s showtime! Five, ten minutes pass. Not a soul… Your chest tightens as you wonder what on earth is going on.

At last, a few guests rush in, looking a little stressed. “OMG, how hard is this place to find?” one of them says. The rest of them do eventually arrive but it’s put your event horribly behind to the tune of 40 minutes.

Prevention.

Always check beforehand if the venue is tricky to find. Night-time construction work detours can play havoc with GPS. If there’s any doubt, provide a map with clear directions to all guests, speakers, entertainment and relevant suppliers.

Communicate changes with entertainers, speakers, MCs, kitchen/wait staff and AV support. The same cure applies for any occurrences that put your event behind schedule, such as parking dramas or unforeseeable traffic chaos.

Cure.

Stay calm. Breathe. Grab your runsheet and see where you can shave some time.

Liaise with your MC first if you’ve hired one – because they’re skilled at adjusting schedules on the fly.

The MC can likely abbreviate their delivery, and the band might skip a song or two, leaving your keynote speaker free to do their fabulous thing.


Red Hot Tip

Use a professional Runsheet Template that sets everything out clearly, making last minute changes easier.

2. Entertainment

Entertainer goes off-script

Your comedian drops the F-bomb, or touches on a subject that is completely ‘don’t go there’’ material. Stunned faces in the crowd make your chest tighten and your legs turn to jelly. It feels like it’s all going horribly wrong…

Prevention.

Speaker-audience match is fundamental. The comedian’s style needs to be appropriate for guests. They need clear briefing on your expectations, with any no-go topics or language highlighted.

The same applies to choosing MCs and entertainers. It may feel beyond your control with pressure from your boss to book their favourite politician as speaker.

No matter how famous or brilliant the talent, if they’re not pitched properly to audience tastes the whole delivery could fall flatter than a proverbial lead balloon.

Cure.

The Master of Ceremonies is your first port of call. A good MC will act swiftly, from using their mic to interrupt with a quick apology to closing down the entertainer.

Also check in with your boss or other senior person from your company if you’re not sure which call to make. The intervention will depend on:

  • The severity of the incident
  • Whether or not guests have thus far enjoyed the comedian
  • How the comedian is into their delivery

Red Hot Tip

Ask a good talent agency for advice – they’re usually spot on with their recommendations thanks to their experience, industry insight and knowledge of alent. They’ll also brief the talent on your behalf using audience insight they carefully glean from you, advising any mandatories.

The MC falls ill

You get a call two hours before showtime. The MC has been rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis. Clearly, he won’t be able to join you on this occasion. Yikes!

Prevention.

Nobody could have predicted this one. Pesky appendix, we don’t even need them!

Go straight to cure.

Cure.

Call the talent bureau through which you booked the original MC. They’ll have insider knowledge about who’s in town and potentially available. This gives them a big head start to finding an appropriate replacement.

Don’t even think about DIY calling around – leave this one to the experts.


3. Audience

Hello, heckler.

Heckling happens on two levels.

  1. The person who mutters to their neighbour or plays on their phone. Highly impolite, but not the worst-case scenario.
  2. The LOUD and PERSISTENT heckler. The sort you don’t want.

Somebody might get the urge to shout their objections, right in the middle of the speaker’s delivery. Perhaps they’ve had a few too many to drink, or they simply feel the urge to be heard RIGHT NOW, as impolite and inappropriate as that may be.

Either way, it’s very distracting.

Prevention.

Another tricky one to predict, and therefore to prevent. (Hello, Murphy.)

However, if you know your event will touch upon contentious, emotive issues topics it’s wise to have a prior chat with MCs, speakers and security about handling hard-core hecklers.

Cure.

Some speakers are capable of holding their own in this scenario. Their options include:

  • Carry on with their delivery and hope the heckler gives up
  • Speak directly to the person using wit or humour to shut them down

If the speaker isn’t comfortable, your trusty MC will no doubt have their microphone ready to interject. They’re skilled at crowd control and will handle the situation with aplomb.

Security staff at the venue may have to step in if the heckler is inebriated or continues the disruption.


4. Technical

Help!

Technology is amazing when it works. When it doesn’t, it’s THE PITS. Let’s say it’s a few minutes into your expert panel discussion, audience engrossed, and the sound system starts playing up.

The lapel mics are throwing nails-on-blackboard feedback and the handheld mic isn’t working at all. People cowering, hands on ears. You’re about to have a conniption…

Prevention.

Always, always work with a reputable AV supplier. Don’t DIY even if you know what you’re doing. You’ll be so busy keeping everything on track on the night, and you simply cannot afford to be consumed by tech problems.

Once you’ve sourced your AV support:

  • Confirm technical requirements with all speakers, MCs and entertainers. Some speakers have a specific preference for handheld vs lapel mic or vice versa.
  • Check the venue for in-house equipment you can use, and even arrange to meet their with your AV person. Note that some venues require you to use their own, in-house technicians.
  • Provide a clear brief to the AV supplier.
  • Where possible, obtain in advance any speaker presentations prior to event day to avoid last minute kerfuffle.
Cure.

Talk to your techie. If you have a good one, you won’t even need to do that as they’ll already be on the case.

Make sure the guest speakers and audience know a fix is underway, because people tend to be far more forgiving when they know what’s going on.


Murphy, Minimised.

You never know when Murphy’s Law will strike, even when you do everything possible to prevent it. The only thing you can do is be prepared for things going askance, and remember it happens to the most seasoned events professionals.

4 ways Murphy's Law can cause massive damage to your #event, and what to do about them. Click To Tweet

If you do make a boo-boo or forget a small but important detail, be kind to yourself, stay calm and focus on the solution. Murphy may show up, but he’ll be Murphy minimised: a shadow of his potentially dreadful self.


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About the Author

Jo Tilgals

From managing a Tokyo restaurant to establishing a catering business, the customer has always been at the heart of Josephine’s career. Jo’s high-level communication skills, broad experience and caring manner are the perfect match for your event projects. She handles all details of contracts, invoicing and briefing, freeing up your valuable time and assuring your event will be a huge success.

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